Recently, former Google executive Marissa Mayer was hired as chief executive officer of Yahoo and charged with breathing new life into the once-successful Internet behemoth. Mayer is, in fact, the 20th female to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She’s also six months pregnant.
According to management consultant and Emory University professor Kevin Coyne, “If she succeeds, it will be a landmark case for women everywhere. … Women will talk about her for decades.” If your reaction to that headline is “No pressure, Marissa,” you aren’t alone.
Over the past half-century, women have returned to the workforce in droves, and working mothers are commonplace. In fact, in today’s economy, most moms need to work outside the home to make ends meet. On a daily basis, I treat women struggling with how to be both good moms and successful career women. A plethora of books have been written on the topic. Unfortunately, women often end up feeling more confused and inadequate after reading them.
Because each working mom’s situation is unique, there is no “one size fits all” approach to helping you find the best work/life balance. Realizing this fact may be daunting, but it is also freeing and provides a unique opportunity to forge a path that is tailor-made for you. Here are things to keep in mind as you do so:
Accept that there are no perfect careers, marriages, children, home lives or leisure routines. If you feel about 80 percent good about each of these areas of your life, read no further. This is about as good as it gets.
Furthermore, you will never find a perfect balance between these various life components. To make things even more complicated, the balance of these life aspects will shift over time, as you, your children and your partner move on to new life stages. Simply acknowledging and accepting this reality will go a long way toward relieving your stress.
Clarify your priorities. What’s the least you must do to feel as though you’re being an attentive and loving mom? A successful career woman? A good partner to your spouse? Anything extra you choose to do will be “gravy.” Write your priorities down and put them in a place where you’re daily reminded of them.
Begin to write in a journal, even if only for five minutes a day. Note how you are feeling and trace back to what might have led to your current mood. If you’re sad or angry, what triggered those feelings? If you’re reasonably contented and calm, what circumstances are encouraging these positive feelings in you? After two weeks of journaling, review what you’ve written. What patterns do you notice? Which areas of your life consistently cause you distress and which bring you peace or pleasure?
Accordingly, begin to make small adjustments to your work/life balance. For example, if you and your husband have become ships passing in the night, it’s time to get a sitter and go out on an extra date each month. If your kids are out of control and causing you undue distress, maybe it’s time to institute some consequences with “teeth” in them.
With these simple steps in mind you now have a choice. You can frantically read yet one more book on work/life balance or you can look inward for the answers that already reside within you. Most importantly, don’t compare your circumstances to those of other working moms. Doing so is pointless at best, and at worst, leads to envy, judgment or a sense of inadequacy. All that matters is that your work/life balance is right for you. By the way, my husband says that these same techniques work for dads.